Page loading speed is more vital now than it's ever been, as the rising number of mobile devices makes a speedy site not just "nice to have" but absolutely essential.
Page load speed has always been an important consideration when creating websites. But as more consumers are spending time researching products and services on mobile devices, they want to be able to complete tasks and make purchases quickly. A fast site is a key part of that.
But how fast does your website need to be? And what’s the impact on your bottom line? In this article, we look at these questions and try to find some answers with our deep dive into website speed.
When we talk about website speed, we’re really talking about load time, which is how quickly you can get the information on your server-rendered correctly on a user’s device.
Load times are measured in seconds and milliseconds.
According to Google, if pages have a loading time of more than one second it damages the user experience.
Google admits that a sub-one second page load time is a massive goal, and the variety of network types and speeds for accessing mobile content makes the issue more acute.
How Fast is Your Site?
Before you can improve your site's load time, you need to establish how fast it actually is. Fortunately, there are free tools available that help with this. Google Developers offers a website tool that includes information about where your site speed is good or bad, broken out between mobile and desktop.
Just plug in your URL and you get a quick assessment of how your site loads both on mobile and desktop interfaces. It uses a simple traffic light system so you can see how your site is doing and provides recommendations for areas you should fix or should consider fixing. Google's mobile help site also provides a number of tips on improving the mobile experience to help you reach the goal of a one-second page load.
reducing server response time
cutting down on redirects
minimizing the number of TCP calls
avoiding external or non-asynchronous script, and
keeping pages simple.
Using these tools, you can determine your site's load time. Which takes us to our next step — finding out how fast it should be.
How Fast Does Your Site Need to Be?
The speed you should aim to achieve depends in part on what sort of site you have and what page you’re loading.
Take, for instance, an eCommerce site.
Generally, for eCommerce, the page users land on a first need to load much faster than the final pages of the buying process. That’s because a visitor’s willingness to stay on a site increases along with their investment in that site.
Simply, the longer someone is on your site (say, completing a purchase), the more willing they are to stay, and less likely to be affected by load speed.
The best way to determine how fast your page should be is to look generally at what other sites are doing. After all, it is a user’s experience across the internet as a whole that sets their expectations for what is fast and slow.
For your highly trafficked pages, any landing pages, and any internal pages that attract an unusual amount of inbound traffic, we’d recommend aiming to be in the top 10% of pages on the internet, with a load time of about 1 second. This correlates with a finding that half of all web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. Of course, these guidelines should not be taken as a law because a number of other factors play into the importance of load times.
If you have qualified traffic landing on your site, for example, an internal page is ranking well for a recurring long-tail keyword search, load times are less important because users are pre-qualified – they’ve specifically sought out your page. They’ll likely wait an extra second or more for it to load.
On the other hand, site speed is absolutely critical for traffic where the user is poised to click away. This would include highly unqualified traffic, like traffic from PPC ads (especially if you’re bidding on keywords).
Tips to Improve Your Website Speed
Here are a few tips for you that will make your site run faster than ever.
1. Link your own images
Hotlinking is when you display an image on your website by linking to the same image that’s on another site. It’s a technique that lets you have big, beautiful images on your site, but avoids storing them on your server space. The thing is, whenever a web browser wants to load your web page, it has to go to an external source to get the image. That means more DNS lookups, which is slow.
It also means you’re consuming bandwidth from someone else’s site, and the owner of the image can swap it out for something else at their own discretion.
Hosting your own images is an easy way to cut out external links. Other sources of multiple DNS lookups include:
Social share buttons
Embedded YouTube videos or Twitter feeds
Google Web Fonts
Fewer lookups mean a faster site, so stop hotlinking!
2. Use a browser cache
Browser caching is when you save static components to a browser for future use by marking how often they need to be updated.
Imagine, for example, a company blog page. You can’t cache the content, since you change the words every day or week or whatever.
However, let’s say that you have a logo on the same page. You can cache the logo since you only update it every couple of years. So you mark the logo, telling the browser that it only needs to check for updates maybe once a year. That way, when a user is loading your blog page, their browser already has the logo read to go, and can concentrate on loading other stuff like words and images.
There are caching tools out there to help you, but a lot of it is going to come down to you maintaining your site manually. The good thing is that you’ll find a lot of stuff that doesn’t change that often, so once you mark it, you can pretty much leave it.
3. Run PageSpeed Modules
Google Developers very kindly has a whole section full of ideas for how you can speed up your website. One way is to install PageSpeed modules.
PageSpeed modules are a series of modules that you can install for either Apache or Nginx that do a huge number of tiny tweaks to make each page on your site run faster. Each PageSpeed tweak is run as a filter, and you can turn these on and off as you see fit.
PageSpeed filters help your site by:
Prioritizing visual content (e.g. load above the folding stuff first)
Optimizing browser rendering (e.g. convert JPEG to progressive image loading)
4. Make your pages smaller
We know, we know – users shouldn’t have to click more than three times (allegedly). But if you bring everything as close as possible to the user, you’re probably looking at fewer, larger web pages. And larger pages are slower. You want to think carefully about the trade-off of one more click and smaller pages.
Something else to think about is the user experience of having giant, scrolling web pages that go on and on. Shorter pieces that are more to the point might drive your site a little better than one mammoth pile of information.
If your pages are exceptionally long, we suggest you revisit your information architecture and see where you can group content together.
5. Minimize your font selection
Every time you use a custom font – or even one of Google’s – it’s going to increase your load time. System fonts are the fastest, but obviously, these aren’t right for everyone. If you do opt for a custom font or a web font, try and reduce the variety of fonts and weights that you use.
Also, pick one library and stick with it. For example, if you do decide to go for Google Fonts, then stick with that. Sure, it’s going to increase your load time vs a system font, since the web browser has to complete more DNS lookups. But for each new font you add from Google Fonts, the speed difference is negligible.
However, if you decide to combine fonts from two sources – for example, Google and Typekit –then that’s now more DNS look-ups the web browser has to make. The result is a slower load time.
Google says we should all be aiming for a one-second page load, which would put your site in the top 10% of sites on the web.
But speed can also be seen as relative. That is, it doesn’t matter how fast you are so long as you’re fast enough for your user. For example, a blog about different types of duck feather duvets, or something else equally niche, might tolerate a slower load time due to more qualified users seeking them out.
Likewise, a site relying heavily on keyword-driven PPC instead of long-tail SEO would likely need a faster load time for its less qualified users. What we do know is that over half of all users require a site to load in two seconds or fewer or they'll leave, and both Walmart and Amazon have reported that faster load times have had a direct impact on their conversion rates.
Our suggestion is to focus on getting all your load times to fewer than two seconds. Then, fold site speed into your normal optimization timelines.
Mr. Lokesh Bansal
Lokesh Bansal is technical lead in Vidhema Technologies. He is responsible for Managing all mobile project from start to successfull delievery. He also played a very major role in all technical discussion within the orgination. He enjoys learning the small details of all modern technologies and use them in his project to make the standered high and delievery seemlessly.